“I was twenty years old and at large in a perfect world” – a fortnight in Europe, August 2016

Wednesday 3 August

Hallo! I am in Cologne. I arrived here but three hours ago and all it has done so far is rain. I have been looking for a cafe to sit in to shelter from it, the first: I got some lunch but didn’t stay there long enough to benefit from worthwhile rain protection, the second: The waitress served me coffee in a paper cup and said “Ciao”, which I took as a farewell (my multilingual skills aren’t great but good enough to understand such a gesture). I’m so glad I took an umbrella as a last-minute thought, otherwise I doubt the fatigue mixed with sogginess would’ve put me in the best mood.

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People are friendly and chatty here but don’t speak much English, leaving me, a solo soggy English girl just going ‘Ack! Ack! Ack!’ as a response until they get the hint. Although it’s wet, it’s warm. I’m sure the first few days of travelling alone aren’t the easiest anyway.

14:30

I’ve found somewhere to collect my thoughts: In God’s House. Cologne’s cathedral (Köln Dom) is beautifully serene bar the low hum of yakking tourists and epilepsy-inducing camera flashes going off every few seconds. I can’t help but feel it’s fairly similar in majesty to Peterborough Cathedral (I know right, you can take the girl out of Peterborough…)

I might go to Amsterdam tomorrow. Well, chuck a stoner girl into Germany for a day and she’ll always find a way out. The train’s only a couple of hours away and it’ll be nice to get away from the rain – although it complements Gothic architecture beautifully. Right now I’m going to do a few laps of this cathedral, maybe get a coffee and something sweet and head to an art gallery before it closes. Then I plan to go back to my hostel, shower, incinerate this sweat-stinked top and go out for a huge plate of spaghetti.

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Caffe Greco, Renato Guttaso, 1976 (Museum Ludwig, Cologne)

Thursday 4 August

Fuck it, I went to Amsterdam! How could I not really, being so close (kind of), and it being so easy. Not only can you smoke weed here, you can have someone pre-roll your joints for you, which is important for a stoner girl – who’s always had a designated joint-rolling mate around her – on her first solo trip to Europe. I was into Cologne (kind of) but I’d done the free thing – the cathedral – and I somehow still managed to spend €60, so I got me the hell out of there and on the first train to Amsterdam (well, not the very first, I treated myself to a decent 10-hour sleep to rid myself of first-day fatigue). Amsterdam is full of smiley English boys walking slowly along the canals with pizza boxes.

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(cont.)

Wow, Amsterdam truly is the best city on Earth. Coming here a second time has only proved that. I was a bit worried that certain memories here would remind me too much of my ex-boyfriend (we holidayed here last August), and it has at times, but in a really nice way. It fills me with a smug sort of feeling of a girl having travelled and being able to point out street corners where she’s been kissed. I’m so so glad I came here. I’ve had such a nice day in a city planned in heaven. I’m yet to go anywhere else that tops it, except maybe Rome. I’m happy to leave a place filled with happy people, happy in the knowledge that I got to spend eight and a half hours there today.

Friday 5 August

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It has rained since I got to Munich, there’s something about Germany, hey! It took around 13 hours to get here from Amsterdam, which in hindsight was a total ordeal, but at the time I suppose I didn’t really know what lay ahead of me so I just plodded on.

 

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Sunday 7 August

I haven’t written for a few days because every time I go to write I get chatting to someone. This hostel in Vienna is perfect, as is Vienna (although everything is shut on Sunday/Monday). I can’t believe I’m halfway through already. I’m going to walk for a bit and write some more later. I want to document what I’ve done and who I’ve met so far because I’ve drank approximately 25,000 litres of beer in the past week and I’m struggling to remember already. I didn’t write anything in Munich, but Munich = good. Pub crawls and 3am walks with American boys.

(cont.)

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Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna

I’m sitting outside the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. It is baking hot, the sky is as blue as this pen [see below] and the building is totally beautiful. I’m going to see two more places today – I’ll pick them out on the map, even though I could melt in the heat. All I’ve been doing is napping and drinking. Drinking litres upon litres of beer and getting no bad hangovers because it’s a 24/7 thing. 

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I hung out with a group of volunteers who work at the hostel yesterday. We left at around 2pm (lazy, dreamy Sunday – on Vienna time) and walked slowly through the city looking for cheap apple strudel for a French girl who left later that day and really wanted to try some before she left (EDIT: She was disappointed). We dipped our feet in the fountain at Karlsplatz for an hour or so and then headed to the Wien Museum which is free on a Sunday, don’tcha know.

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Ferninand Kruis, Wien Neuer Markt, 1914 (at the Wien Museum)

After I nearly bust an eyeball after not having a cigarette for about two hours (those Camels can have a certain hold over the Smoker-on-Holiday) we finally found some apple strudel, got some beer and walked down to Stephensplatz. God, this sounds like a Young Adult novel doesn’t it? I’m really having the best time. We came back to the hostel in the evening and met some terribly nice people and drank a terrible amount of beer. Fell in love with a Brazilian guy, too (EDIT: Still a bit heart-eyes for that night).

It seems that all I do in Vienna is walk a lot and do nothing a lot, in equal measures. It suits me though. When I’m in London I like to go to museums but I haven’t been to one yet (possibly because they’ve all been closed). In Munich too, I didn’t go to a single museum. I went to an art gallery in Cologne, which was great actually, but I didn’t go to one in Amsterdam either because apparently you can smoke weed there. I want to in Berlin though; I think they’d be hard to avoid in Berlin.

18:45

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I just napped for half an hour; a restful little cat nap. I feel so free and happy.

8am-9am: Get up/pack/shower

9am-10am: Breakfast/check out

10am-2pm: Explore more of Vienna

2pm-4pm: Cook lunch at hostel

5pm: Catch train to Prague

19:45

It’s funny documenting the time of writing as you realise just how much can happen in a hour. Just as I was writing the above list, there was this hot young couple sitting over the way from me, all intertwined and smooching and generally looking Hollywood-worthy. I would’ve got a little jealous, but they seriously looked way too good together to incite envy – the sun was shining, and here were two hot young things smooching around in Vienna. I felt weirdly enthusiastic about it: Young love’s poster couple, right here in front of me. I put my shoes on, got up and thought maybe I might want a boyfriend again soon, say, within the next 45 years or so, when this guy approaches me and asks me on a date. He was all: “Hey, I’ve been watching you from over there and wanted to come and talk to you”, ending in an only-slightly awkward exchange of broken English and phone numbers. I was kind of baffled by it as I’d just woken up from a very deep nap and people don’t really do that since Tinder happened, and I haven’t shaved my legs for a week (but then he probably couldn’t see that from wherever he was stalking me. Also, he was French, so whatever). Maybe I’ll go and see him tonight, being my last night in Vienna and all. I’ve finally got out of my sun-induced comatose with a huge black coffee, and I feel very, very happy to be here. This feels like my kind of city.

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Tuesday 9 August

Was just speaking to an Australian guy in my dorm who’s been backpacking for six billion years or something. He tried to convince me to go on a walking tour with him, but I was all like, “Actually, I was thinking about going to Forever 21 today” (I didn’t actually say this, but c’mon, dude. I’m a slow walker. And I want to go shopping! Whatever! It’s my holiday!)

Friday 12 August

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There is a god. I’ve somehow managed to bag the only seat on this train without a reservation. That’s four and a half hours of uninterrupted sitting. My kind of holiday. I’m a bit baffled as to my luck with this. Everyone standing up’s looking at me like I’ve performed a magic trick right here on the carriage, and in a way, I have. I’ve not had to reserve any trains yet – this is my last of the trip – although most of them have been near-empty. This one’s come from Budapest and is going all the way to Hamburg, somewhere I would have loved to have gone if time allowed, so it’s picked up ALL the Europeans along the way, tourists or no.

I had the nicest time in Prague. I thought it was going to be a huge party place that revolved around nighttime but there was so much to learn about during the day – so much recent history. It’s also one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever been to. The beer’s cheap, too.

The hostel wasn’t too sociable though, in fact, it was a little stark, but I was lucky enough to meet a girl on the first morning when the shower water was cold and I asked her for help. We then hung out for 48 hours straight – we didn’t share aforementioned shower, mind – but we had a great, great time.

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I’m staying in two hostels in Berlin – it’s a really long story, but basically I’ve figured out that when you’re travelling alone the type of hostel you stay in can make or break a city, and I had a bad feeling about the one I’d initially booked. The new hostel’s called Heart of Gold, so I have Neil Young looking over me if anything. It has a kitchen, which is important, as I’m cruelly broke (EDIT: Didn’t use the kitchen once). I had loads of Czech money left over that I couldn’t convert into Euros for some reason so I just bought loads of snacks for the train. AND I got a seat! Hey hey!

Saturday 13 August

I’ve already checked into my second Berlin hostel and I’m so glad I did. The first felt a little like a Travelodge; full of Brits on Snapchat in the bar. I met this amazing guy last night from Jordan who’s been travelling alone for more than two and a half years. He wasn’t annoying about it though, the opposite – a really fascinating person with a particularly kindred soul. I only wanted to have one beer last night and thought I’d hit the jackpot with an atmosphere-lacking hostel, alas, we started talking and I ended up having seven or eight beers and going out for falafel at 2am. I’m really feeling it this morning though. I knew I needed to rest last night and I feel totally exhausted today. Berlin is so beautiful but it’s so big, I don’t even know where to start. I guess you just start somewhere. It’s Saturday so it’s busy – like a Saturday in London – so naturally things are a little harder.

(cont.)

It’s so hot and I seriously considered throwing myself into the Spree when I decided to follow the crowds t’ward the Brandenburg Gate. There was a huge protest down the Unter der Linden for the legalisation of marijuana. Literally thousands of people smoking weed down a street just metres from what was referred to as a ‘death strip’ only 27 years ago when the Wall was up.

I’m going to walk again. I’m currently sitting at the Holocaust Memorial, loads of big blocks like this in a whole square:

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Police keep having to stop kids from climbing all over them, which you wouldn’t think they’d have to do – being a Holocaust memorial – but kids are kids and it’s the summer holidays. Today started shakily but has turned into the most gorgeous day. Tomorrow I’m going to do a walking tour and then find a flea market. On Monday I think I’ll go to the zoo.

Tuesday 16 August

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Victory Column, Berlin, 15/08/16

Today’s one of those horribly discombobulating days where you have to catch a flight at 6pm, thinking you’ve given yourself a whole extra day to enjoy a city, whereas all you’ve done is give yourself a day of anxiously checking your watch every five minutes to make sure you haven’t taken an involuntary nap.

I’ve had the most wonderful few days in Berlin. What an amazing edge this city has to it; not any one thing at all, but rather a city of contrast and a feeling that it’s on the brink of something special.

I’d definitely come back here again and check out more of the nightlife. If I were here with some close friends I probably would have; they could have lent me some money as I am truly stone-cold broke now. Also, I’m not madly into techno unless I’m up to my eyeballs in something illegal. I was happy instead to buy bottled beer from the shop and stroll around dark corners of Berlin with a boy from Barcelona. What a perfect three-day relationship we had, arguments and all. We were together quite intensively for a few days, and I was almost glad to be back alone and having a solo travel experience once again when he left for Amsterdam.

14:45

I’m waiting for my train to the airport with the heaviest of hearts. I wish I were going anywhere but home. I’ve truly had the most wonderful fortnight, filled with positivity and curiousity – I’d do anything to be getting on a train to Hamburg now, just one more hostel, one more stop. Berlin has so much to offer a visitor and I am 100% going to save up to do this again next year. Maybe the States, but then again, I’m not quite done with Lady Europa yet. I’d want to do it for longer – a month at the very least – and although I’d be happy to go with a companion, I think what I’ve really found over the past two weeks is just how fun it is to do these things alone.

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Screenshot 2016-08-22 at 22.03.46 - EditedI can heartily recommend reading Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There if you’re into the Continent, a book I swallowed up in four hours on a train to Wales a few months ago which convinced me to go to Europe in the first place. Amazon link is here.

 

 

‘I want to marry the blue light’, or ‘Writing because you haven’t in a while’ – 28/5/16

I tend to write on this blog once a month, usually exactly one month after the last post. I have no idea how this happens. I write a post, a few days later I think I should write again, let the feeling pass; two weeks later I get another urge to add something to this personalised URL – eyes are too sore from being on the internet all day, four weeks later, bam. And so on. It’s the cyclical nature of blogging perhaps.

I said I would take a break from my laptop for the next few days but, alas, the allure of the blue light is too endearing. There’s that bit on Broad City in The Matrix episode where Abbi’s all like, “I want to marry the blue light”, which ALWAYS makes me laugh because I can only agree. Sometimes I’m curled up in bed with the blue light and think we could have a long and happy existence together. 

So, yes, I wanted to check in on here and check WordPress is surviving without me. (DISCLAIMER: It is.) Although WordPress is still as difficult as ever to work, and I still have no idea how to use it, I’m glad my blog is still here, gathering dust. I rarely have time to write on here anymore, but seeing as I do right now, allow me to clear my throat, good people: Ahem.

I have an exciting week coming up as my play ‘Fitting Room’ is going to be watched by actual people at an actual theatre. I’m only as anxious as a kind-of-playwright can be: The rehearsal draft is in and now the director does their job. I’m looking forward to it though. I am missing Bruce Springsteen for it, but I am in no way bitter about it. No, really. I started writing it back in August and it’s been a lovely project to work on over these past nine or so months – to see something evolve and grow over umpteen drafts. I still have a bit of a soft spot for the first draft though, even though it was the shittiest. I’m a bit like that. If you don’t believe that I could have written a play that a theatre company wanted to produce, here’s the proof. I find myself looking at that a few times a day, just to be sure.

I’ve been writing on this blog less because I’ve been working on a new site based on a zine I created a few years ago, Obviously a Hobby. Although it’s a bit reminiscent of 2009, I’m back on Tumblr, as Tumblr is so much easier to navigate than this goddamn site that I couldn’t say no to its virtual suggestively raised eyebrow. It does everything I want it to. Some of my friends will hopefully get on board with it in the next few months, but right now they’re (rightly) enjoying their newfound summer freedom that comes after exams and such. You can see the (beta) version here.  I’ll be double-posting things of worth on here too, but I’m now reserving this space for stream-of-consciousness diary-like- letter ramblings as it’s what I’ve accidentally done for the past four years anyway.

There’s loads more going on but I’ll save it for another day.

All my love,

T.A.L x

‘Living in Sulk St.’, or ‘Dear diary…’- 27/4/16

I’ve been sulky today. Truly, utterly sulky – with this song playing over and over in my head. I busied myself with some work, which took my mind off my sulk for a bit, but the sulk kept returning, as sulks so often do.

The only thing that slightly cheered me up was a dumb-ass online article that has been widely shared over my Facebook page today about ‘modern dating’ – which made me scoff and scorn as much as the quote marks suggest it did.

I was like, please. I don’t want to read another article about how people want to ditch Tinder and get out there in the real world and actually be able to talk to guys at a bar, like people did in the 1860s or something! Come on you guys! (I say this as someone who is yet to try Tinder, not on moral grounds ((well, I’m not mad on instant validation)) but just cause I can’t imagine anything more embarrassing than bumping into my brother on it. I know. I am still a child.)

Anyway. I have so much on at the moment, as usual, that I can’t seem to find the time to enjoy much of it. I want to do sooo many things – as we all do, I suppose – but I’m so concerned and fixated on success at the end of it that I often forget to enjoy it while it’s happening.

I’ve started to pick up books again because – unlike when I was at school – there is no deadline that looms large with a book, you can plod along with it at your own pace, step by step, page by page, and I feel much better off for it.

Plodding along is particularly apt with the book I’m reading at the moment, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I’m pretty hooked because it’s about hiking across an impossible route (not impossible, but hyperbole is perhaps necessary when boring you with information about what books I’m reading) in Northern America – the Appalachian Trail.

Now, I have probably walked pretty far in my lifetime if you calculate every step that I’ve ever taken (from the car to the office, over and over) so this book really speaks to me. (Sorry, I’ve drunk a lot of coffee and am finding myself really funny).

In all seriousness, I once did a spontaneous 13-mile walk with my best friend through surrounding villages near our houses, and I’ve not since had that same simple satisfaction of putting one foot in front of the other, for miles and miles, with no real destination nor appointment in mind. It was good enough to simply plod forward, on and on, lowly and slowly.

The Appalachian Trial, by contrast, is 2,200 miles – but it’s a great book if you’re looking for something to while away your hours with. Also, my mate Chloe – big up – loves it and (presumably) endorses it, so go forth with your £0.04 and pay for that postage, people. 

If you just have one hour, then you must watch Lemonade – if you haven’t already. I’m not even going to write about it, all you need is a decent search engine – say Google – and one letter on your keyboard – ‘L’. (Steps have been taken out of this process, i.e you need Tidal – but get a free trial and waste 30 hours of this next month watching it over and over. I’ve seen it twice now, and it was SO much better the second time. NO WORDS.)

I’m 20 in two weeks. How am I handling this information – the cold truth that I’m departing my teenage years without even agreeing to it? Let’s just say that Weezer’s Teenage Dirtbag came on in Flares on Friday night and I cried my way through it while shouting in my 18-year-old friend’s ear: “This song’s for you now, babe. You gotta own it. And remember – it’s not forever.” Ah, the optimism of a drunk 19 year-, 11 month, 2 week-old. ‘Listen to Iron Maiden, maybe, with me. Oo-oo-oh.’ (Maybe).

I’m up against a play deadline at the moment so obviously I’m the least productive I’ve ever been. My acrylics have got to a really difficult length that also makes typing hard. There are no excuses, obviously, cause I’ve just written this 761-word blog post (761 words! Wow, thanks coffee!)

I’m also working on lots of exciting mini projects at the moment, with various friends and foes, some of which I’ll post about on here if they ever come into ripe fruition. The projects, not the people, of course.

Until then,

T.A.L x

 

“if I loved myself, would I take it the wrong way?”: Things I’ve been going and doing – 13/09/015

Roiling clouds of superheated ash surge from Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines National Geographic | December 1992
Roiling clouds of superheated ash surge from Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines
National Geographic | December 1992

I thought I’d write something today because of the sound and cohesive nature of my mind that’s been serving me well lately, which has felt totally magnificent as I’ve felt very capable of doing things for once. For a good few weeks there, a long run for any 19-year-old, I was doing things pretty well and not freaking out about much – which sounds like a huge NBD – but for someone who’s a long-term nail biter, or dealing with undiagnosed bouts of anxiety, feeling a-OK is such a blessing. It’s nice to surf that wave of feeling good for as long as you can.

Of course, as soon as I began to contemplate how well things have been going, it only filled me with impending doom, which is actually a medical condition linked to anxiety.

“Hey man, how you doing?”

“Yeah, not too bad really, although I’ve got a serious feeling of impending doom right now.”

So sudden, and so unwelcome. Although the thing with panic attacks is the fact they take you so much by surprise, yet feel so certain, like – ah, I knew this must’ve been coming.

Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be about impending doom, it just got in the way (by its very nature)

I’ve been very busy over the last few months, something I feel very lucky to have been. I’ve laid my hat in in London (several times), Amsterdam, Brighton and Dorset for End of the Road festival – something I had planned to write about when I got my photos processed – but the photos ended up being so shitty I almost feel like the time is up in terms of doing a huge write-up on it. I have one photo of Girlpool, but being a film camera, it is doubly exposed with a picture of my friend’s clay model of a rollerskate. Which looks actually very cool and I might send it to them as a suggestion for their next album cover.

Girlpool were very very good – I love to see musicians where I can be like, WOW, I love your work and I can so easily learn those chords and get my mate to play the bassline. It’s nice having bands you admire to be very easy to emulate (not putting down their talent, by any means) – but rather inspiring you to pick up a guitar and make music, too.

We also saw Tame Impala, St. Etienne (who played the WHOLE of Foxbase Alpha – gee, whizz) Laura Marling, Alvvays (another guitar band that I can play along with!) and Fat White Family (among others).

We also went to Amsterdam for the week a couple of weeks ago.  As said in my previous post, I reverted back to journal writing during the holiday and it was nice to be away from technology for a bit. I am literally a person that takes social media detoxes! I don’t think I’m ready to accept that.

While away, I continued my ‘supremely enjoyable’ run of writing and wrote two or three times a day.

31 August 2015

“It’s our last day here in the city today. Jack says ‘hi’. We were so lucky with the weather and now it’s raining. Raining hard, the kind of rain you get in Paris, but more stoned. This holiday has been beyond wonderful. Amsterdam is so chill, though, like I know that’s such a cliched thing to say, but it’s true. Generally looking forward to things at the moment, feel very positive about the future.

Hanging around this city has the same atmosphere of being at a festival, but with no real pressure to see any bands, and a less likely possibility to stumble upon a Fatboy Slim set (unless, of course, he is holidaying as Norman Cook). I feel good about writing, and almost content about the fact I can be doing this for my whole life. It feels very satisfying. Not even to make money, but in the more basic sense, i.e I will have the ability to write as long as I have a pen, something to write on, and am not crippled with the inevitable arthritis that runs in my family.”

That ending almost reads like a line from Morrissey’s Autobiography.

Write again soon!

T.A.L x

Getting stuff done by just mooching about, happily; a useless post by yours truly 24/8/15

Campers grill pancakes for breakfast, National Geographic, December 1965

There’s this bit in Broad City where Alanna and Abbi sit next to each on separate laptops all night and then go to Facetime each other, forgetting that they’re in each other’s company and SCREAM. That’s like me at the moment but I end up Facetiming my own laptop, clocking into myself and my reality in some horrified, 2D truth that I essentially live on the internet. I’m not even major-ly internetty. I don’t use Tumblr and only tread the boards of Reddit when I wanna have a cry at some cute puppies. But still. Itchy eyes.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing in the evenings over the past two or three weeks so not only am I on screen all day at work, I come home to the harsh whiteness of Word and continue in my duties to The General Words. And here I am again. Damn, writing bug, you got me good!

I don’t mind it at all of course. I’ve just finished writing my first ever play. It’s 24 pages long. It’s part of an ‘open submissions’ project where there is a chance it might be performed as a rehearsed play reading. Here’s to hoping. Writing has been supremely enjoyable over the past few months – I’ve really fallen back in love with it.

I bought my first electric guitar this month too! It’s been a supremely busy and very expensive month but I’ve reached the end of it in a very good place. I’ve wanted to get one for so long and have been deliberating over what I want it to look like and sound like by poring over people’s eBay reviews without ever stepping into a music shop myself.

I had a bad day a few weeks ago re: the affairs the of the heart, so got a bus into town and bought myself this guitar. I knew it from the minute I saw it. Sounds ace, too. Sometimes I tuck it up in bed with me. One day I’ll stop looking at it all day and actually get up and play it.

Must go before my eyes go square.

P.S Natasha Khan released this today as part of her new SEXWITCH project. Listen to it, then read all about it in an interview with the lovely Laura Snapes.

http://pitchfork.com/news/60902-bat-for-lashes-discusses-debut-sexwitch-album-shares-helelyos/

I’ll get round to writing my thoughts on it once the whole record’s out.

I’m off to Amsterdam on Thursday so will be writing something about that, too.

Although I have decided that I’m not going to bring my laptop during the trip and revert back to journal writing for a week – I miss it.

On the flip side, and until then,

T.A.L x

On making busy happen because otherwise you’d be, er, so ‘not busy’, and why it’s okay to sit and wait

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Bathers at the European Health Spa in St. Petersburg, Russia National Geographic | November 1973

On my to-do lists of recent, writing a blog post has always meant to have been at the top, but instead shoved to the bottom for something *more important*. Since I last wrote, I’ve been working 37 ½ hours a week, in a production of King Lear, moved house, and was in Pilton, Somerset, coincidentally at the same time as Glastonbury Festival was on. And luckily we came across some tickets (about three months ago) so went along. It was alright.

For all the blog posts I haven’t written over the past month, I’ve written one thousand in my head. I’ve hit an unfortunate point recently where everything seems to have fallen into place, for the first time in a while, and I’ve hit an unsettling comfortableness.

Comfortable as I’ve been doing all things I really enjoy, but unsettling because I haven’t allowed myself the space to really enjoy them i.e Taking Too Much On Than You Can Deal With Right Now.

The last month has been full burnout, and at times I felt like all I was doing when I wasn’t doing anything was sleeping, only to wake up and CRACK on through to-do lists again. But hey, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, not by any means.

When I was little, I would spend whole days during the summer holidays sitting by the phone, making everyone call me the ‘telephone lady’, and answering every phone call with “Hello, you have reached the Lepore’s household. How may I help you today, ma’am?” I like to be useful. And yet I am the laziest workaholic ever.

In the past couple of months I’ve been trying to up my productivity, with much dismay. I’ve had to completely stop watching the television, and try to cut down my internet time so I can do all of the important and necessary things in my spare time, such as phoning my mother and pruning my bonsai tree.

I want to do so much, and I want it to happen to me now. Why is it that I keep looking at job vacancies online, when I’m five months into a job I’m really enjoying? I’ve been going straight from work to rehearsals then home, to pack my things into a box to move house – but OMG Tara, why haven’t you started on your play yet? You said you’d have a first draft completed by the first week of August! God, you suck!

Being at burnout stage forever makes you have endless wars with yourself. Never being good enough, putting too much pressure on your tiny mind: Oh god! I’m so busy! I can’t do anything!

I had a huge brain vomit the other day when I couldn’t work out if ‘You’ was spelt like that. The Y looked weird and intrusive. I’d been sleeping for five hours a night.

When I feel like I couldn’t possibly write another paragraph, learn a new song, or go anywhere ever again when I have to interact with people – I have to force myself to ask why I wanted to start this in the first place.

Everything I have ever done as a hobby started out as a thought that excited me so much just before I went to bed. I once got so excited at the prospect of performing a one-man version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I got up in the middle of the night and performed it to myself in the conversatory. Now that’s passion.

But being a true burnout makes one devoid of any passion. A lyric I go back to again and again and again is David Bowie’s “My brain felt like a warehouse/It has no room to spare/I had to cram so many things to store everything in there” from Five Years on Rise/Fall of Ziggy Stardust.

I mean, my god. I wouldn’t ever go to ‘warehouse’ as an adjective to describe the ol’ noggin but like, of course I wouldn’t – because I am NOT DAVID BOWIE. That just sticks with me a lot. Cramming things into a WAREHOUSE. There sure is a lot of things in your brain, Mr. B!

I’m obviously not comparing my simple, small-town mind to that of His Holiness, Davey B, but yes – that lyric – followed shortly after by “I never thought I’d need so many people.” Guh. I digress. I know what I meant initially, but I just fangirled too hard, too fast. Listen to it.

Perhaps I just try and keep busy all the time because I am determined to sustain my interest in ALL THE THINGS. I think part of me feels like because I’m not a student, I have to occupy my time with lots of interests and hobbies, to help make up for a lack of degree.

For creativity to be able to flourish, you really need headspace. Quality headspace, long walks, galleons of wine. Ha ha. Although maybe that is what you need.

I took a book out of the library three months ago and have renewed it FOUR times. If it keeps giving this much, I will eventually buy it.

The book is The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to be Happy, by Michael Foley. Obviously I took it out because of the title, which is brilliant, but it makes for a mixture of very interesting reading to be ingested in snippets, lest you’re some philosophy square who knows about guys called Nietzsche and Jung.

The whole book is quotable, obviously, that’s why it made it as a book. The Loss of Transcendence chapter is one that’s been bouncing around this big old warehouse over the last few days. He opens the section talking about Our Lord Bruce Springsteen, and how at a huge stadium concert of his, the people sitting nearer the back seemed completely indifferent and uninterested. I was all, but, this is The Boss! I don’t believe that for a second. But then of course I can. The problem is, myself especially included, the more you do, the less bothered you can become about it.

Mr Foley:

“Constant exposure to entertainment has left many incapable of sustained interest, never mind transcendence.”

If we can’t sit still, shut up, or stop wanting things, are we missing out on some of the most important things in life? Truly experiencing things – rather than experiencing things and subsequently uploading them to Facebook, or experiencing things vicariously through other people’s Facebook pages?

Having a self-destructive streak (albeit a small one, closer to a strand), this said something to me:

“The paradox is that the most intense experience of the self is the loss of self.”

We spend our whole week agonising over how our hair looks, our jobs, what our ‘purpose’ is, how you will make sure you save more money next month – i.e A constant will to improve oneself, and then go out and get absolutely blotto at the weekend. It is only human to seek a true, real sense of self and satisfaction, only to want to feel nothing at all on a Saturday and dance to Rocky Horror on the kitchen table.

In order to achieve a more natural, non-narcotic feeling of transcendence, it takes time, and dedication. Be busy, do lots of things, but know they will take time to pay off. You can’t have it all now. You just haven’t earned it yet, baby.

Jeffrey Lewis’ song most wonderful song ‘Time Trades’ is all about doing stuff that takes TIME but will be so worth it.

Foley continues:

“Skill must first be acquired, slowly and frustratingly. There is no immediate gratification. Indeed, there many never be any. But when the skill becomes automatic, the miracle may occur.

“The activity seems to become not only effortless but autonomous – to take over, to assume control, to be running itself. So the musical instrument plays itself, the sword wields itself, the poem writes itself, the dancer does not so much dance as permit music to enter and take over the body.”

So yes, busy yourself, and enjoy it. Just don’t expect the rewards to come by as quickly as your weeks are going. It’s only when we take the time to reflect and become conscious of what we’re working hard on, and possibly wait for however long it will take – without succumbing to the need for immediate gratification – will we truly reap the rewards.

I want to do things properly, with genuine feeling. I want to stop reading books with my laptop open. I don’t want to miss out on all the proper stuff in life cause I’m too busy working on a gazillion things, rushing them, and never speaking properly to my mother. Or tending to my bonsai tree.

Further reading:
Rookie’s Krista Burton wrote this about the joy of things that take TIME.
http://www.rookiemag.com/2015/07/literally-the-best-thing-ever-decades-long-projects/

Mike’s book. Really worth your precious minutes.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Age-Absurdity-Modern-Makes-Happy/dp/1847396275/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1438117815&sr=1-2 

Auf wiedersehn!

T.A.L x

Thoughts on a play about consciousness. Is that a paradox? Am I even here? ~ and other things mulled over this week

I went to see The Hard Problem and took notes in the dark. Lesson learnt: Don’t take notes in the dark. When the house lights come up, you will laugh at the illegible squiggles in front of you, and sigh at the subconscious jottings of things you wrote without realising, such as ‘I’m hungry.’ Anyway, I think this is a review. Enjoy!

THE HARD PROBLEM by Tom Stoppard, Director - Nicholas Hytner, Designer - Bob Crowley, Lighting - Mark Henderson, The National Theatre, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson.
THE HARD PROBLEM by Tom Stoppard, Director – Nicholas Hytner, Designer – Bob Crowley, Lighting – Mark Henderson, The National Theatre, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson.

I went to see a screening of The Hard Problem last week at my local theatre. The problem with not being rich, famous or the holder of tickets for press night is that essentially you cannot provide ‘a scoop’ for your audience, or the 13 readers of this blog. The play ends on the 27 May, and overall I did kind of enjoy it. I didn’t regret paying for a ticket (being an ‘ex’-usher, I’d become accustomed to free theatre), but maybe that’s just because I couldn’t overspend at the interval (of which there was not one.)

I’ve seen a few screenings over the last few years and am into the idea of them. I read an interesting article in the Sunday Times’ Culture magazine this weekend by Bryan Appleyard about the lack of fair distribution of the arts around the country, as opposed to JUST LONDON. It seems, although we already know this, cause like, DUH, London receives just SACKFULS of more funding for arts/culture stuff than anywhere else – and last week’s result of an all-blue government makes me feel, a bit, well, depressed about this. It isn’t all ‘their’ fault, and Bryan even states that it was in fact under New Labour that the arts began to ‘fail’. He adds, however, that the Coalition followed with an “utter indifference.”

He goes on to say the regional arts divide is ‘intolerable’: “Residents of County Durham have paid £34m into the arts lottery since 1995, and received £12m in arts funding in return. The City of Westminster has contributed £14.5m and received £408m.” *jaw drops to ground.*

Anyway, screenings are IMPORTANT, comrades. (Interestingly, though – I managed to see Behind the Beautiful Forevers a couple of weeks ago AT the National itself for a fiver, but paid £15 to see a screening of this. So there’s that. I don’t know what I’m trying to say.)

My only beef with screenings is that we don’t really get to see it how it’s seen. It makes me think of the BBC Four ‘Go Slow’ season: (the two hour canal boat ride, a tour around the National Gallery) uninterrupted television.

With The Hard Problem, however, I found myself getting annoyed at the (otherwise skilful) camerawork. Yes, it was skilful, with great angles and high-quality shots. But for Christ’s sake, let me see! At every transition, the camera panned up to the top of the stage, so we couldn’t see the set changes. I just had total screening FOMO. I wanted to see stagehands all in black, shuffling around in darkness! Isn’t that the joie du théâtre, darling?

I spent most of the show drawing varying sizes of question marks on my notepad. Now, I know it is wrong in the ‘art of reviewing’ to strongly put forward your own opinion of something without considering different perspectives.

I was – as a reviewer – ‘supposed’ to be commenting on the position of the play within the industry, what it ‘meant’ as Stoppard’s first play at the National since 2002, Nicholas Hytner’s last work in his Artistic Directorship. But it was Olivia Vinall’s portrayal of Hilary that didn’t sit with me right.

I have to admit – that’s why I went to watch. She played Cordelia in King Lear alongside Anna Nicole Smith last year, and I wanted to see her in something totally different. (She has also played Ophelia/Juliet – the National’s babe du jour.)

She was shouty. At first I gave her the benefit of the doubt, after all, I was watching a screening and perhaps it was a problem with microphones, or her ‘projection’ wasn’t working well on camera.

But then none of the other actors had that problem and, fair enough, she had TONNES of words to say. Ophelia doesn’t say much. Cordelia buggers off very quickly. And – I know nowt about brain science, or neurology – but it just seemed like she was reeling off the words at times, just going through the motions. And shouty kinds of reeling off. Sorry, Olivia. I tuned out.

However, there were things in the play that just worked, so well, and made for most delightful watching. Much of this was down to Hytner’s directorial choices, with a particular highlight when Spike, played by Damien Molony, gave in to Hilary’s pleas and kneeled down to pray…at the light of the minibar. It was a small and simple motion but one that’s stuck with me all day. Signs of class in a renowned director who the National Theatre has recently waved goodbye to.

The set design was another highlight, and although I wouldn’t usually notice things like this, my best mate studies it at *drama school* so I like to take note and report back to him. It was very sleek and functional, not too much or too little. The lighting fixture at the top of the screen effectively represented neurons in the brain, and ‘sparked up’ at every transition, of which there were five or six. It was used to great effect too to create fireworks on Bonfire Night – a significant night for the main characters for reasons I simply CANNOT disclose for spoiler alert reasons, but yes, it was a moment where the penny dropped for me with some simple nifty lighting. A suggestion of a idea where everything clicks into place.

Interestingly, in the pre-show talk that is broadcast as part of the NT Live series, some playwright (of who I embarassingly didn’t take the name of) said you’ll spend the first third of the play wondering what the hell’s going on, the second third figuring it out, and the last third feeling moved by what you’ve seen. It did feel like that – very much so, and I’d be interested to read/see more of his plays to see if this formula rings true. (I may have misquoted the above, I was rummaging through my bag for sweets. No interval, oh, the horror.)

I’d give it three stars, but then again – was I ever even there, if I wasn’t really there? Oh, god, my head hurts.

Signing off, not in London,

T.A.L x